Month: March 2017

Review: Holding

Holding by Graham Norton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My sister was recently staying at our place and she was reading this, every time there was a wee bit of down time she would grab this book and try to get a bit of reading in. She thought it was grand. I thought I’d give it a go on her recommendation and I was delighted. I like a cozy mystery and this is certainly that. It has all the features, lonely folk, misfits, isolated village and a shambly police officer. There is lots of juicy story, love triangle, illicit affairs and wandering husbands and wives to keep you turning the pages. I am delighted that Graham Norton has written this book and best of all it leaves space for another. If you need something undemanding and calming this is ideal. If you do it as an audiobook you can have Graham read it to you, that is a very nice thing.

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Review: Solo

Solo by Kwame Alexander
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Kwame Alexander has a thing, poem (or in this case lyric) packed books with particular appeal to teenage boys. That is such a wonderful thing! The boys at my school lap up his books, he writes sport so beautifully and he has such great things to say to his audience, thing like, you can be great even if you are not the greatest at this one thing, it is ok to show weakness, you don’t have to be That Guy all the time – you can be you and it will be fine.

This particular book is the story of a young man who has it all, he has money, he is loved, has talent and who is the son of one of the world’s most famous rockstars. He is about to graduate high school and it should be the beginning of fabulous new and exciting times at college, unfortunately the challenges in his life have become more than just annoying, his dad is living the rock and roll lifestyle to it’s extreme and has used every rehab available, his sister has made the most cringeworthy record and there is plenty more to deal with, but that is ok, life is still ok, isn’t it? Then love makes a fool of him and his poor hurt heart needs to heal. The next bombshell hits and he realises that there is healing to do that he can only do by himself. What he decides to do is brave and wild and will change his life forever.

It is a really good book, I liked it slightly less than The Crossover, but that was always going to be a hard act to follow. Kwame is awesome. Thank goodness for Kwame and for his making reading cool for some of the most non-readerly boys.

Thanks to Netgalley for giving me access to this great book.

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Review: Carnivalesque

Carnivalesque by Neil Jordan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I struggled with what to rate this book. On one hand it is so lush, the world within it so beautifully described and clever, on the other hand it felt sometimes so over described that I got bogged down. I adored the idea of losing yourself in a mirror and a different version of you stepping out. Someone who looks like you but isn’t you steps out as you slide in. Weirdly good.

The beginning of the novel where this takes place is just so good. Andy has been taken to the circus by his parents, he slips away and enters the weird magical world of the carnies behind the mirror, the ageless magical people who exist on a kind of mould which is scraped off the circus and placed into vials. As Andy enters the mirror another version of Andy exits, a sinister version. This Andy is cold and uncommunicative, his mum knows there is something amiss but cannot figure out what it is. Eileen, Andy’s mum was my favourite character. I desperately wanted her to get her Andy back, for things to work out for her. Meanwhile behind the mirror Andy becomes known as Dany and is embraced by the carnies and learns the job of a hauler, the person who pulls the rope for the aerialists. He also takes part in all the rituals of the circus, the magical and odd world they inhabit.

There is that same feeling that you get reading David Mitchell about this book. I wanted to love it to bits and at the beginning I thought that might be going to be the case, and while I enjoyed the experience of reading it, I felt that it could have been a little less flowery.

Thanks to Netgalley for giving me access to this book.

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Review: The Strangler Vine

The Strangler Vine
The Strangler Vine by M.J. Carter
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

After it got going this was a great tale of the British in India. Full of fairly bloody violence and with lots of commentary on the appalling attitudes of the time towards the Indian people. It is the first of the Avery and Blake mysteries so it spends quite a lot of time setting up the relationship between the two men. They start by being very antagonistic towards each other, I couldn’t see how they were ever going to end up having a series written about the pair of them working together, given how badly they got along, but that is the thing, they don’t get along because they are so opposite, but they have a successful time because of that very thing. The two of them are officers of the East India Company and are attempting to solve the mystery of the disappearance of a famous writer. He is assumed to be in the hands of a band of terrors called Thugs or Thugees, these were a real thing in India at the time and it is interesting to read about these people. (There is a wealth of information at the end of the book, but also some interesting images online). These guys are famous for their dastardly ways and indeed the encounters that Blake and Avery have with them are violent and lead them to believe that they are in mortal danger.

This book gives you an idea of what life was like in India before the revolution and the withdrawal of the British. The mystery itself is very slow moving but redeems itself by rollicking along in the second half of the book. An enjoyable read all in all.

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Review: The Bombs That Brought Us Together

The Bombs That Brought Us Together
The Bombs That Brought Us Together by Brian Conaghan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I picked this up because of the themes and because I’d read a book by Brian Conaghan earlier this year and really loved it. Refugees are topical subject, our students study them in various areas and we have a community of students who are themselves, refugees. I thought this would be a good insight into their lives and that it might be something they would enjoy reading.

I found it very slow. Interesting and well written, but slow. I think it will irritate some of my readers as they wade through it waiting for the good stuff to happen. By the time I got to all the action I was nearly ready to quit. I stuck at it but will admit to skipping pages on the way. Having said that it is a decent read. And it was gritty too in places. I just wanted it to move along. The best thing about the book is the relationship between the two boys at the heart of it. They are true friends and the friendship is tested often.

I really wanted more. Not a bad book at all, but a difficult sell to teenage boys who need pace and vigor in their stories way earlier than this one brings that into play.

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Review: Capital

Capital by John Lanchester
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A street in London, the people who live there, their lives, hopes, dreams, trials and all the things that influence their rise in fortune or their demise. I was only at the end of the second page when I realised that I had seen this as a TV series. I loved the show and I loved the book. Having seen the story, or should I say stories, played out on the screen, I had faces and impressions and it made it seem very real. I loved the circular way you meet the characters and follow along with them. I didn’t dislike any of them despite their serious flaws, they are all very human and like all of us are imperfect and just mucking along as best they can. In some cases the world is cruel and their circumstances take a turn for the terrible, but in other cases things go their way and they end up in a better place than they had been at the beginning. This is like having an inside view of the goings on in the lives of a bunch of diverse people but all of whom are associated with the street.

The backdrop to all this is the time of the fall of Leyland Bros and the financial crisis of a few years ago. Money is at the heart of much of the book, property values soaring, the ability to become rich witout actually doing any hard work to get there, the crazy behaviour of those who have terrible spending habits (and I put myself amongst them for my bad shoe habit) and the entitled wives of the very well off and their grasping need to constantly improve their homes/bodies/children. I loved the stories of the immigrants trying to build better lives against incredible odds and the joys and tragedy they experience.

Great big meaty story that keeps humming along. I’ve read John Lanchester’s Fragrant Harbour and enjoyed it, but I think this one is my fave so far. Looking forward to reading more of his.

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Review: The Fireman

The Fireman
The Fireman by Joe Hill
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A virus has hit the world, it appears first as dragon scales on the skin of the victims, this then leads to them self-combusting. Nobody knows how it is spreading but it is spreading fast. The world is burning as fires break out everywhere. Our heroine is Harper, she is a school nurse and is one of the nicest characters you could ever meet, constantly seeing the good in people and being the perfect volunteer and helper when the hospital system breaks down. A fireman arrives with a young deaf boy and their conversation begins a long lasting connection. It is a big story, there are lots of connecting story threads and

This is a really big book, it is a bit too long and at times it does drag a bit, but you can skip along through those bits. I forgave this because I loved Harper, Renee and Nick so much. I’m also always a fan of a plague novel. Reading it reminded me a little bit of The Passage and some Stephen King I’ve read in the past, that isn’t a bad thing. You could pick it to pieces if you wanted, there is that scope, but if you read for character and story then it has plenty to give. There is a hint at the end that this is not the last of this story.

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